DAVE MCGILLIVRAY, for Runner's World
I'm trying to get approval to hold a race. I am trying to design the run segment with safety being utmost. I have heard differing opinions on the way the course should be laid out. (It will be a road run, with a police monitor; the road open to traffic, which should be light.) Is it best to have the runners go out with the traffic, cross over, and also return with the traffic? Or against the traffic on the way out, and return with the traffic? Or try to squeeze everybody going in and out onto the same shoulder? (I'm pretty sure what you will say about option #3, but wanted to let you know I considered it.) - Louise, Ocean City, NJ
Thanks for the question, Louise. Ideally, it is always best not to mix traffic and runners, but I do realize that on some occasions it might be impossible to get full course closure for your event.
That said, I think it does depend somewhat on how many runners you are expecting to participate. If it is a small number, I actually might consider having them run against or facing traffic as one would if they were out on a training run by themselves. This, of course, could only be done once the field was spread out a bit. However, if you are talking about a larger event, I would recommend you run with traffic and have lead and trail vehicles to protect the runners along with some official bicycle escorts riding along the course. Perhaps you might be able to cone a running lane in the higher-traffic areas. Of course, plenty of warning signs, variable message boards, public safety officials, and volunteers to help monitor everything can only help. Also, it's important to have an aggressive community outreach program, making the community aware of the event.
Lastly, I certainly would try to avoid "squeezing" the runners to one side of the road if you must do an out-and-back course. Hope this helps you out a bit.